Preview: Tigers go for rare four-game sweep Thursday

By Derick Hutchinson, ClickOnDetroit.com
Published On: May 08 2014 11:58:41 AM EDT
DETROIT -

After dominating the Houston Astros (10-24) for three straight nights, the Detroit Tigers (20-9) will attempt to earn their ninth straight victory Thursday afternoon and sweep the last-place Astros in their only visit to Comerica Park this season.

TV: 1:08 p.m. ET, MLB Network, CSN Houston, FSN Detroit

Detroit will turn to Drew Smyly, hoping that the lefty can build off of a dominant performance in his last outing. Smyly shut down the Kansas City Royals on May 3, allowing two hits and no runs in seven dazzling innings. The win lowered his ERA to 2.45 on the young season.

Houston will look to end a five-game skid behind Dallas Keuchel, who has been one of the stronger starting pitchers for the Astros. Keuchel owns a 3.96 ERA in six starts and leads the staff with 33 strikeouts.

On Thursday the left-hander will face a Detroit offense that has scored 42 runs in its last six games while outhitting opponents 71-35. The 26-year-old faced the Tigers twice in May 2013, surrendering nine runs in 10 innings and picking up one loss in relief.

The Tiger bats have caught fire during the eight-game winning streak, and Detroit now owns the top batting average (.285) in the American League by a wide margin. Miguel Cabrera’s reemergence has played a huge role in the offensive explosion, as the MVP raised his average from .206 on April 21 to .292 heading into Thursday.

First-year manager Brad Ausmus is enjoying contributions from up and down his starting lineup. Left fielder Rajai Davis is third in the American League with a .330 batting average, while Torii Hunter (.321) and Victor Martinez (.318) are sixth and seventh. Davis also leads the league in stolen bases with 12.

Both the offense and the starting pitching have been outstanding for the Tigers all season, but the recent performance of the bullpen has allowed Detroit to enjoy its current winning streak. Setup man Joba Chamberlain retired all four batters he faced Wednesday, striking out the side in the eighth inning after relieving Porcello in the seventh. Chamberlain has notched five straight scoreless outings and has 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings on the season.

Closer Joe Nathan has been a crucial part of the winning streak, saving three of the eight games and holding opponents hitless in three scoreless innings.

Detroit is enjoying a stretch of nearly perfect baseball, and has a chance to build on its five-game lead in the American League Central Division with a win on Thursday. The Minnesota Twins will visit Detroit Friday night for the first of a three-game series.

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